[Abraham Lincoln, Congressman-elect from Illinois. Three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing front] (LOC), originally uploaded by The Library of Congress.
Nicholas H. Shephed, photographer. [Springfield, Ill., 1846 or 1847]
Let's call the photograph above Image 1.
Or is this the earliest known photograph of Abraham Lincoln?
Copyright Albert Kaplan 1983
Used here in accordance with this rights notice from Mr. Kaplan's website.
Let's call this one Image 2.
The Library of Congress holds Image 1. The LOC says about the precedence of the photograph:
This daguerreotype is the earliest-known photograph of Abraham Lincoln, taken at age 37 when he was a frontier lawyer in Springfield and Congressman-elect from Illinois. (Source: Ostendorf, p. 4)
Attributed to Nicholas H. Shepherd, based on the recollections of Gibson W. Harris, a law student in Lincoln's office from 1845 to 1847. (Source: Gibson William Harris, "My Recollections of Abraham Lincoln," Women's Home Companion (November 1903), 9-11.) Robert Lincoln, son of the President, thought the photo was made in either St. Louis or Washington during his father's term in Congress.
Published in: Lincoln's photographs: a complete album / by Lloyd Ostendorf. Dayton, OH: Rockywood Press, 1998, p. 4-5.
Title devised by Library staff.
Gift; Mary Lincoln Isham; 1937.
Forms part of: Daguerreotype collection (Library of Congress).
Mr. Albert Kaplan holds Image 2. Mr. Kaplan has an entire website devoted to proving his point both that Image 2 is of Abraham Lincoln, and that it is the earliest known photograph of him. His website is here.
I can hardly do justice to Mr. Kaplan's case and the evidence he has put forward here, so go and read it for yourself.
Nor can I do justice to the scholarship and time which must have led to the Library of Congress making the claim that Image 1 is the earliest known photograph of Lincoln either.
If you are interested, do your reading and decide for yourself.
Maybe we will need Erroll Morris to help find the truth.